Cockroaches have plagued humanity ever since the invention of apartments. The problem is that roaches and humans are all too similar, up to and including a tendency to live in small enclosed spaces with bits of food lying around here and there for use in odd moments.
Roaches, however, are generally tougher and more determined than humans, and are far more willing than humans are to ignore an eviction notice and just hope that the sheriff has other things to worry about and won't get around to enforcing it until the kids have gone off to college. Consequently, though roaches think of roaches as, well, people (I mean, you know, they think of each other the same way we think of each other, and we're ... oh, you get it. Right?), humans think of roaches as a problem.
And really, it's quite unnecessary. Roaches are, in fact, not a problem at all; they're a solution. The problem is world hunger. That, and a failure to recognize an obvious solution, in the form of free food, even when it's running around right under our feet.
Roaches are, in fact, an extremely nutritious and well balanced food. They're high in protein, moderately high in fat, contain a number of essential minerals, and are high in vitamins A, C, and F. They're also very high in fiber (if you don't peel them before eating). However, some people find their flavor to be just a little bitter (or, as one taste tester put it, "unspeakably vile"), so one must select the recipe with that in mind. We've provided several recipes here which should produce yummy  results.
Acquiring your Roaches
There's a famous rabbit stew recipe which begins, "First, catch a rabbit...". It's the same with roaches. You can't have roach pie if you don't have roaches, and you're going to be using a lot of them. So the first thing you need is an infestation, and the second thing you need is a good roach trap (unless you're going to be going around and picking them up individually, using tweezers or something, which gets old mighty fast). Furthermore, your trap had better be non-toxic -- no roach bait allowed! -- since you're going to be eating the things afterwards.
Finding an Infestation
The easiest way to have an infestation is to live in a college dormitory. The older dorms of the old-line colleges in Cambridge, Massachusetts are a good place to start. Avoid modern, suburban campuses; they're all too likely to have had Mr. Orkin in to get rid of the "pests", as a result of which there won't be many roaches to catch, and the ones that are there may be poisonous.
If that doesn't work, your next best bet is to live in a cheap apartment somewhere downtown in any major American city. If you're lucky, the landlord will never do anything about the roaches, and they'll be "clean" all the time. If you're not so lucky, the roach people may come around and spray every few months. You must watch out for them, and make sure you do not harvest roaches within a week of the sprayers coming by, because they'll be poisonous, which isn't good.
Finally, if all else fails, you can raise your own. Just order a box of them from a scientific supply house. Then just let them go in your kitchen. They'll take it from there. This has a huge advantage over the other methods, which is that if you buy all organic produce, you'll have a crop of organic roaches, which is worth a small fortune on the open market (assuming you can find anyone who wants to buy them -- scientists are notorious for not caring about whether stuff's organic, and they make up 90% of the live roach market). If you have a choice, opt for one of the light tan varieties. They have a lighter flavor than the dark ones.
Harvesting the Roaches
Catching your roaches is easier said than done. It's something you should do well in advance; you don't want to be still running around the kitchen chasing speed-racer bugs when the dinner guests start arriving.
Roach bait might be tempting (it's easy, and you just sweep up the roaches afterwards) but it makes them poisonous. That might be OK if you're just preparing a meal for, say, a cooking show, or to be served to guests at a party, but if you're planning on eating it yourself you'd probably rather go with something else.
Roach motels might seem like a good idea, but they have two problems. First, it's hard to get the roaches out again afterwards, and when you do the legs almost always stay behind, which reduces the fiber content significantly. Second, you'll get occasional mice stuck in the traps, all tangled up with your roaches, and they're awkward to get out of the traps. Furthermore, unlike roaches, they bite. (Of course, once you do get a mouse out of the trap, you can use it in several of the following recipes along with the roaches, so it's not a total loss.)
If you live in a dormitory, your roaches may be big enough so you can use mouse traps to catch them. A large dormitory roach can weigh in at an ounce or two, and the largest may require use of a rat trap, rather than a mouse trap. In that case, you won't need as many of them to make a good meal (lucky you!).
If you're lucky enough to have German roaches (you know, the ones that fly), you may be able to use Japanese Beetle traps to catch them (available at your local hardware store).
Most of us, however, will find that our roaches are too light to trip a mouse trap, and never fly, and we'll need to use something special, made just for them. Here's how to do it:
Take a draw string bag (an old gym bag will do, or you can make one out of a pair of sweat pants). Place it in the middle of an area where roaches are known to congregate (near the sink might be good). Bait it with something roaches like. A slice of moderately rotten liver makes a good roach bait (remember to remove the liver before you cook the roaches, though, or it may affect the flavor). Leave the bag there when you go to bed, but don't forget to set the alarm -- you want to come back to check the trap around 4 AM. Without turning on the light, tiptoe across the kitchen, and pull the strings tight. Got 'em! Can you feel the bag vibrating? If you can, it means you've got a good catch.
Preparing your Roaches
There are several ways to prepare the roaches for cooking, depending on the recipe you plan to use. If the recipe calls for whole roaches (as in Cajun popcorn roaches) you may not need to do anything beyond getting them out of the bag. However, most recipes require more than that.
- Dead Roaches -- If the recipe calls for killed roaches, you have several choices. Assuming you need whole roaches, the obvious tactic of stepping on them is pretty much out of the question. The approach favored by most cooks is to put them in a jar with a chloroform soaked rag. They'll soon stop moving.
We should note that chloroform can have a distinct effect on the flavor of the roaches. Most taste testers felt that the change was an improvement.
If the peeled roaches don't have to be whole, then there's an easier alternative, which is to administer a short, sharp blow with a hammer. If done correctly, the soft inside and the hard crunchy outside will be entirely separated in one easy action. You should probably do this in a bowl with high sides, however; otherwise you're going to need to scrape the soft inside off the wall, the counter, and the front of your shirt before you can use it.
- Blended Roaches -- Just drop the roaches you'll be using in a blender, and blend on the "Disintegrate" setting for several minutes. If the screaming bothers you when you first turn it on, you can use killed roaches; the result will be much the same either way.
- Roach Flour -- This is done just like "Blended Roaches" but you start with dried roaches. To dry them, you can just put them in a plastic bag and put the bag in the sun for a week or so. If you're not blessed with 24/7 sunshine, you can use an oven instead. Spread the roaches out on a cookie sheet, and place them in a 225 degree oven for two hours, and they'll be dry enough for use in making flour. (Note that you should use killed roaches for this, or the results may not be what you had in mind.)
This is one of the simplest, yet most mouth-wateringly effective recipes we know.
Put about a quarter inch of heat-resistant oil in a wide griddle. Heat it to about 500 degrees F. Add two tablespoons of salt, a quarter cup of ground black pepper, a quarter cup of ground Cayenne pepper, and 1 1/2 cups of whole roaches. (Note that you should wear oven mitts during this operation, as well as an all-over apron and a face shield-goggles combination, as there is going to be significant spattering when the roaches hit the fat.)
Stir vigorously for 30 seconds, then retrieve the roaches from wherever they landed when they popped (there's a reason it's called "popcorn roaches") and use a strainer to remove any which actually remained in the hot oil. Set them all aside and allow them to cool before serving, and prepare for the compliments! As an extra little bit of amusement, you can wait until after your guests have eaten to tell them it wasn't popcorn shrimp (after they've been in 500 degree fat saturated with black pepper, it can be hard to tell the difference).
Shish Kabob Roaches
A summertime favorite! This is ideal for use with an outdoor grill.
Since roaches are rather small, you'll need more skewers than you would for, say, shish kabob pig's knuckles.
To prepare, you'll want to cut up several tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers into good "skewer"-sized pieces. Then put them all on the skewers in sequence, one onion piece, one tomato piece, one pepper piece, and two roaches, then start again with one onion piece, and so forth. Once they're skewered, shake lavish amounts of salt and black pepper over them, and put the skewers on the grill.
Since they're small (unless they're dormitory roaches), they'll cook fairly rapidly. If the grill is good and hot, expect them to be done in about five minutes.
At this point, they're ready to serve. Note, however, that if you neglected to use killed roaches on the skewers, you may find that your guests have all left already, and you'll have to eat them all yourself.
A favorite at formal dinners! This is far easier than you might expect.
Prepare two quarts of aspic (see any general cookbook) in a three quart sauce pan. When it's cooled to about 200 F, add 3 cups of whole roaches. To keep the roaches from settling, stir as the aspic cools, until it starts to thicken. Once it's thick enough so that it drips slowly off a spoon in large blobs, transfer it to a pre-chilled decorative mold and place in the refrigerator to finish cooling. (If the mold is not pre-chilled you may find your roaches have all settled to the bottom when you take it out the next day, which will be disappointing.) It will probably be solid enough to serve in about 2 hours, but for assured results, you should allow it to cool overnight.
Remove from the refrigerator, turn it over, and pop it out of the mold. Voila -- something entirely unexpected for the church potluck!
Lovely on toast, crackers ... or even just a spoon! Note that this is a spicy jelly, not at all like the Welch's grape jelly you're probably most familiar with.
If you're going to eat it immediately, then it's almost too easy to be called "cooking".
Using a fork, blend 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup red pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 cups of chilled peeled roaches in a large bowl. Serve. Yum!
If you plan on keeping it around for a few weeks, however, you'll need to be sure it's thoroughly cooked. So, follow the above recipe, but then place in a pan and heat to boiling. Keep the jelly at a boil for at least five minutes, then transfer to pre-boiled (sterile) jars, seal the tops with melted wax, and refrigerate. Unopened, it should keep for at least six weeks, though any jars which turn black and start developing fur should be discarded (or given as gifts -- just don't eat them).
This has all the nutritional benefits of roach jelly, and it's high fiber as well!
The traditional difference between jam and jelly is jelly is strained, while jam isn't. In the case of roach jam, the recipe is identical to the jelly recipe, save that you substitute blended roaches for the peeled roaches we used earlier.
The perfect dessert food substance! Note that this has somewhat more sugar in it than the usual pecan pie recipe, in order to balance the somewhat "heavy" taste of the roaches.
Here's what you'll need:
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup white sugar
- 3/4 cup roach flour
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup Canada grade A maple syrup
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 1 (9-inch) unbaked deep-dish pie shell
- 1 quart Wild Turkey 101 bourbon
Mix everything but the bourbon and half the pecans together and place in the pie shell. Place in a pre-heated 350 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes. Wearing oven mitts (it'll be hot), pull it out, and arrange the remaining pecans on top of the pie. Return to the oven, and bake for another 35 minutes.
Allow to cool 30 minutes before slicing. While it's cooling, pour the bourbon into lemonade glasses, neat, and serve to your guests.
After everyone's drunk a sufficiency of the bourbon, slice the pie, place on plates, and serve. (They'll be much more appreciative of the pie if you remembered to serve the bourbon first.)
Now here's a fine idea to wake up that tired old poached eggs on toast breakfast! Just use roach bread for the toast, and your overnight guest's opinion of your cooking will be changed forever!
If you have a bread machine this one's really easy. Just substitute 1 1/2 cups of roach flour for an equal amount of white flour, and you're good to go. (You may need to increase the sugar and yeast slightly to obtain an adequate rise. It's a good idea to try it once just for yourself before you make a loaf to serve to guests.)
For the true roach lover in your life!
For this, you'll also need a loaf pan.
- 2 cups roach flour
- 2 cups blended roaches
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup Cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons salt
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Pour into the loaf pan, and place in a preheated 400 degree oven. Bake for 2 hours.
Allow to cool 20 minutes before removing from pan and slicing.
This loaf doesn't rise. Consequently, it should be served as an "upside-down loaf" (invert as you remove from the pan, and present it that way). The loaf takes the shape of the pan, and looks very attractive on the serving platter.
As an added bonus, if you place a few dozen whole roaches on the bottom of the pan before you add the batter, they'll come out on the top of the loaf when you flip it over for serving. (Remember to put them in upside down so they come out right-way round when the loaf is flipped. This is easier if you use killed roaches.)
References and notes
- Believe it; it's true. I read it someplace I'm sure was very reliable. (If I can just remember where, I'll put in a real reference.)
- Or at least edible, as in the I'm so hungry I would eat anything kind of edible
- Don't be fooled by the casual way they spray their glop all over your kitchen, nor by the way they smile and assure you that the spray is totally harmless to people and other animals. Roaches are harder to kill than a false rumor. If the stuff they're spraying kills roaches, you better believe it's not harmless! If you don't believe me, check out how young the guy (always a guy -- maybe women have more sense) is who's spraying your apartment. He's young, right? Right! They're always young. What happened to the old ones? ... 'Nuff said.
- Scientists buy all kinds of stuff, including live roaches. Is that weird, or what? Go figgur.
- They don't taste quite as much like diesel fuel.
- Unlike other insects, roaches can get up on their back feet and run when they think something's after them. Just like little people!
- Actually, as a serious aside, glue traps should never be used, because they are extremely cruel. Roaches, which are almost as intelligent as dogs, suffer terribly when stuck in a glue trap.
- Make sure you remove any old gym socks, and wash it out thoroughly, or it may give your roaches an "off" taste
- Whether they're actually dead, rather than just sleeping, is somewhat unclear, but for the purposes of the recipes it doesn't really matter. Once they're eaten they won't be waking up again.
- Olive oil, canola oil, safflower oil, and soybean oil are insufficiently heat resistant. To avoid a burnt-oil taste, the best choice is pure white petroleum jelly, though you can substitute coconut oil in a pinch.
- If you want the roaches to go into the pan, rather than off across the counter and behind the stove, you should use killed roaches.
- Unlike mice, mosquitoes, ticks, cows, dogs, and humans, roaches carry no diseases transmissible to humans, so there is no need to heat them before eating.